You know how sometimes in our lives, the right words hit us at just the right time? We can be exhausted on the journey and then we’ll get a cool respite in the form of beautiful words. This week I had a message that did that for me. It was a message pertaining to Ecclesiastes 3:1, the famous bible verse about seasons. This verse talks about the seasons of our lives, the seasons of our marriages, the seasons of our careers, the seasons of parenting. As I was listening, I started thinking about the seasons of my life. Which season am I facing in life? Am I doing all I can to make the most of the season I’m in? Am I ready for the next season to start?
I also started thinking about how well the baby steps coincide with the seasons analogy. We’re planting a crop of wealth and we have to tend it just as we would any other crop. I can’t throw some corn on my lawn in the middle of winter, never do anything with it and expect to have big glorious ears in September! I also can’t sit around mired in debt, never change my habits and expect wealth to pop up out of the blue!
I’ll never be able to speak or write as well as our fantastic pastor, but here are my meandering thoughts on the seasons as they apply to Dave Ramsey’s baby steps:
Winter/Pre-baby Step 1:
This can be the hardest season to face. It’s the season when nothing seems to be going right and we’re not getting anywhere. We might be behind on our bills, we might have creditors calling, or we might just find we have too much month left at the end of the money. We find ourselves thinking “there has to be something better than this”. Faced with the cold and dark, we have two choices. Give up and choose to live in stress forever or take the time to plan for the future. What would we change if we had a chance? What would we do differently going forward? What are our options? How would a new life look? We begin asking ourselves these questions and soon we start to see hope for spring. Warm weather might be just around the bend!
Spring/Baby Steps 2 & 3:
Spring is a time to plant. It’s time to put in the work in anticipation of the harvest. It’s a time when we’re putting in all the work, but we may not be seeing any rewards. Just as a seed planted doesn’t produce a crop right away, paying off debts and building emergency funds doesn’t produce wealth right away. In fact, during the back breaking work and sacrifice of spring, it can be hard to remember that we will eventually see a harvest.
Sometimes when we’re paying bills and throwing snowballs, it can feel like we’re more broke than we were at the start of the journey. The winter may have been dark and cold, but at least it was quiet and restful! Things may have gone on the credit card before and we might have been broke, but at least we could order a pizza and buy those new shoes!
It’s important for us to remember that in the end, we will reap what we sow. We can put in the work now and reap a harvest of wealth and security, or we can choose to return to winter. If we choose to return, we won’t to put in the hard work, but we won’t see the reward either.
Summer/Baby Steps 4, 5, & 6:
This is a time to nurture and protect our crops. Just as we need to feed and water our crops and protect them from the weeds that are ever encroaching, we need to feed and protect our wealth to help it grow. It’s time to feed our wealth through regular additions to our retirement and the kids’ college funds. It’s time to protect our burgeoning wealth from the constant temptations to use it.
We always have the option to cash out the emergency fund to go on vacation or stop funding college for a bit so we can buy a new boat. But what happens if we let weeds in the fields? They steal the life-blood of our crop. If we can care for our crop, we will surely see a rich harvest in the fall.
We also need to remember that summer can be a time for rest. There’s nothing wrong with having a cool drink and lying in the hammock for a while. If you’ve sown well and you’re feeding and protecting your crops, you can rest a little. Take a vacation, reward yourself. Just make sure you return quickly and with renewed vigor. Otherwise it’s not a rest, it’s an invitation for a lost crop.
Fall/Baby Step 7:
We’ve endured the winter and put a plan in place. We’ve put in the work and made the sacrifice in order to plant well. We’ve tended the crop and kept it safe. Now it’s finally time to enjoy the harvest! As my pastor said “gather unapologetically”. We’ve worked hard and been blessed, there is no reason to apologize for the harvest of wealth.
Now, we need to keep in mind that there are 3 things that need to be done with the harvest. We finally get a chance to sample it. We get to truly enjoy the fruits of our labor! Buy the boat, take the trip, for heaven sake, buy the shoes!
We also need to share it. Understand that we didn’t do the work alone. We had blessings along the way and it’s our duty to share those blessings. What’s the joy in working hard and then not celebrating with others? It’s not really a party if you’re by yourself!
And finally, we need to set some aside. If we use up all the harvest, what happens when winter comes around again? We don’t need to live in fear (after all, we started this journey to be rid of fear), but we do need to make plans for the future. A full silo means peace and security in the face of an uncertain world. Whatever gets thrown at us, we have the means to deal with it.
I wrote this post more for myself than for you dear reader. I’m in the middle of spring right now and the weather is beautiful, but the work is hard. I need to remind myself that we reap what we sow. If I’m willing to sacrifice now, just think what my table will look like come harvest! I can’t wait to invite you all to the feast!